Common File Formats Used by Graphic Designers

March 15, 2019 / Phil Manning - PMDC

.psd? .svg? .pdf?


What complex alien language is the designer you just hired speaking? She is speaking in file format and having an understanding of what your designer is saying and sending to you will help you decide which format to send to other vendors and advertisers for future use.


Below is a breakdown of file formats you may come across while working with a designer.


.ai, .psd, .indd, .muse - .ai (Illustrator,) .psd (Photoshop,) .indd (InDesign,) .muse (Muse) and really any other format with the name of an Adobe program. These are the native work files of the associated program and can only be opened with that particular program (i.e. Illustrator can open .ai files in order to work on and edit the file.) Most Adobe programs can open each other’s file types, but only the native file of each program can be used to fully make edits to the file. Many vendors like having access to native files for various applications.


.eps -  Encapsulated Postscript. .eps files are most commonly used by designers to transfer an image or artwork, generally a vector file into another application. Vector-based .eps files are scalable to any size.

.eps files can be opened using Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, or Adobe Photoshop. A vector .eps file is one

of the most preferred formats by printers, promotional product companies, silk screeners, banner and sign companies, and other third party creatives.


.pdf -  Portable Document Format. A .pdf is a universal file format that preserves/embeds the fonts, images, layout and graphics of any source document, regardless of the application used to create it.

.pdf files can be shared, viewed and printed by anyone with the free Adobe Reader software.

Some .pdf files can be used for commercial, digital, and/or desktop printing.


.jpg/.jpeg -  Joint Photographic Experts Group. A .jpg file is a compressed image file that does not support

a transparent background. The level of compression in .jpg files can vary in resolution with high quality for desktop printing, medium quality for web viewing and low quality for email. When compressed repeatedly the overall quality of a .jpg image is reduced.


.gif -  Graphics Interchange Format. .gif files are low resolution files most commonly used for web and email purposes. Almost all browsers can support the use of .gif files, which use a compression scheme to keep the file size small. .gif files can be created with a transparent background. Pronounced “Gif” as in gift, not “Jif” as in peanut butter. End of discussion.


.tif/tiff -  Tagged Image File Format. The .tiff file format is most commonly used for storing images, photography, or art. .tiff files are most commonly used in professional environments and commercial printing. The .tiff format is the most widely supported format across all platforms. It is the standard format for high quality images. Though large in size, .tiff formats are considered to be the most reliable format for high quality images.


.png -  Portable Network Graphics. The .png file format is most commonly used for use online and on websites due to their low resolution. .png files are bitmap images that employ lossless data compression, and like .gif files, .png files can be created with a transparent background.


.svg -  Scalable Vector Graphics. Developed for almost two decades, but only coming into use as recent as 2017, .svg is a vector (scalable) graphic format and is used to display a variety of graphics on the web and other environments. Under the hood, .svg documents are nothing more than simple plain text files that describe lines, curves, shapes, colors, and text. As it is human-readable, easily understood and modified, .svg code can be manipulated via CSS or JavaScript. This gives .svg a flexibility and versatility

that can’t ever be matched by traditional .png, .gif or .jpg. .svg is an W3C standard, which means it can inter-operate easily with other open standard languages and technologies including JavaScript, DOM,

CSS, and HTML. .svg graphics can easily be applied to logos, animations, interactive elements, interfaces, and print.


So, now you hopefully have a better understanding of the what and how of these various file formats.

As always be sure to ask your designer if you still have questions. A .pdf download has been provided

for your files.

Phil Manning is the owner of PMDC, an award winning one-man graphic design agency based out of Madison, Indiana. Phil counts many local small businesses as clients, but has also done work for large corporations like Humana, Honda, Sango of Japan, and Uber. Phil is also a design educator, lecturing students and businesses on the importance of design, as well teaching visual communications classes at Ivy Tech Madison.